Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Nice weather for ducks

It's been a wet last 10 days, with huge amounts of rainfall in short periods. After the incredibly dry summer, water levels are now well up and with it new, temporary habitat has appeared, especially along the River Wey. Normally such conditions don't occur until late December or January, so it's added a fun dynamic to birding recently, which has for the most part been slow with a creeping sense of midwinter doldrums.

My first local Pintail for nearly three years, with Mallards.

Monday 14th

Caspian Gull and White Wagtail were noted at Istanbul Airport while waiting out a grim delay to my connecting flight on the way back from Azerbaijan.

Tuesday 15th

No birding.

Wednesday 16th

No fewer than three local year ticks appeared while I was away (typical!) and I was hunting some of them down at Thursley late afternoon, under broody skies that threatened rain at any point. A stakeout from the tumulus produced one: the male Hen Harrier that was found by Rosalind on Sunday. Although keeping distant, pleasant views were obtained as it quartered over Ockley, occasionally swooping down (and at one point seen eating something while perched).

Hen Harrier.

Unfortunately there was no sign of the Great Grey Shrike – also found by Rosalind on Sunday and present on Monday as well – but some good company during the stakeout was compensation. A Brambling flew over our watchpoint too, but it was otherwise deathly quiet, save the star attraction.

Thursday 17th

A female Sparrowhawk, a Kingfisher and a drake Pochard were the best I could manage at Enton Lakes this morning.

Great Crested Grebes.

Friday 18th

It was a lovely, sunny start to the day as Dave and I walked Thursley, which on the whole was quiet – neither the harrier or shrike showed and perhaps both have moved on. A male Peregrine over Pylon Pool was the highlight, along with a broad southerly movement of nearly 2,000 Woodpigeons.

A Barn Owl was a nice surprise while driving along Thorncombe Street in the evening. 

Saturday 19th

I undertook an enjoyable stroll along the Wey from Godalming to Shalford this morning, which was greyer and milder than initially forecast. A total of 55 species was OK, with the heavy recent rainfall meaning plenty more waterbirds than normal were dotted along various stretches.

I started at the Lammas Lands, where two Teal and the Red-crested Pochard x Mallard hybrid were on Overgone Meadow. A male Peregrine was seen over both meadows and failed unsuccessfully to take a Feral Pigeon over Catteshall Meadow. Other bits included 15 Snipe and a Chiffchaff.

Peregrine and Red-crested Pochard hybrid.

The north section of Unstead Water Meadows was almost entirely under water and plenty of birds were collected here, including 150 Black-headed Gulls and nearly 100 Canada Geese. Three Wigeon – a drake and two females – were a real surprise in 'Gadwall Gully'. Seemingly the first record here since 2010, Wigeon is rare locally and always good value, this being only my fourth south-west Surrey record of 2022.


Seven Teal and three each of Little Egret and Snipe were present too. A Carrion Crow taking a fish from the Wey was an odd sight.

The Peasmarsh stretch was quiet, and Shalford Water Meadows was also flattering to deceive with only a Lesser Redpoll and a few Teal noted by the time I got to St Catherine's Pool. Here, however, a true local prize greeted me: a female Pintail, nervously in among a Mallard flock.


My first in south-west Surrey since January 2020, this was a nice reward at the end of a muddy and long walk. Pintail is a properly rare bird in the local area – six that Janet had over Unstead SF yesterday morning were the first in south-west Surrey for more than two years (clearly a few are moving at the moment). Upon chatting to ex-Shalford patch-watcher Matt later on, I learned this was the first documented record for the site since 1963. Mega!

Sunday 20th

A walk around Shackleford this morning was quiet, with Teal, Sparrowhawk and two Stonechats of note.

Monday 21st

No birding.

Tuesday 22nd

No birding.

Wednesday 23rd

A Shoveler pair and six Pochard were the best I could muster at Frensham Great Pond this morning, which was wet and dreary.

Things were livelier at Cutt Mill afterwards with my first Goosander of the second winter period – a drake – on the house pond. There I also counted 44 Mandarin an 16 Shoveler.

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